John Brown, We Swear to You*
"John Brown was a mislead fanatic."
- Abraham Lincoln
The "F" line of the New York Subway runs along the east side of Manhattan toward 63rd Street, where it turns right, cuts Lexington Avenue and pulls under the East River tunnel, stops at Roosevelt Island, then again travels underwater, through another branch of the East River, and enters Queens. It is just here, in the area between Queens and Roosevelt Island, including the station Queensborough, where music miracles happen at night. Right now I am watching a young Negro who has taken his synthesizer in the subway car and is playing "The Lord is My Shepherd." The gushing energy of his playing intended for chance passengers can be totally alien to a Balkanac (a native of the Balkan Peninsula) – as it is, by its looseness and spontaneity, rather non-European and much freer than the Balkan false freedom mostly characterized by arrogance – and the national one: that's where its falseness lies.
the Mason-Dixon Line is
cut and uncut meadows
What to the Balkan people is the Drina, which, in a cultural sense, divides the Balkans into East and West, to the Americans is the Mason-Dixon Line, a cultural border line between the northern and southern states. This line was drawn in 1763 in order to divide British colonies during colonial America, and is today a political line. However, as the crossing of the Drina, to either side, does not really make for any cultural jumps, so is the crossing from the northern to the southern states scarcely noticeable. A European who in New York goes down the eastern bank to the South will first notice the huge rivers, Chesapeake and Delaware, named after local Indian tribes, rather than cultural differences, and when he finds himself at the Potomac River, a large part of which is a border line between Virginia and West Virginia, then he is already deep in the South.
Noteworthy is the crossing from the industrial zone of the North to the rural zone of the South as well as that streets, squares and parks are increasingly named after a General of the defeated southern army, Robert E. Lee. Wherever you look, you can see the name Robert E. Lee. The South is literally obsessed by its famous General. In contrast to the New Age Balkan heroes who were glorified for killing civilians, injured persons and war prisoners in the ethnic cleansing campaigns, General Lee is honored for the battles he successfully waged commanding the North Virginia Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865). In many a battle Lee's army was considerably weaker, but at least it struggled equally hard with the economically and numerically superior enemy. Confederation flags can be seen in the streets of Winchester, Virginia, whereas in the very center, next to the neoclassic building of the Old Court, there is a monument to the soldiers killed in the Confederation action. I ask my American friend Jim what it really means, if this war still lasts – and Jim smiles.
Antietam cry –
trying to find the entry
to the battlefield
Most of the European monuments were built for the national glory and as a shining example to future generations. The monument on the battlefield at Antietam in Maryland, one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War, was erected as a warning to prevent similar events from happening again. In the vast plain by the small river, Antietam, near the smallish town of Sharpsburg, mainly inhabited by immigrants from Germany, General Lee's troops and the numerically twice superior North army clashed on September 17, 1862. In this hand-to-hand combat, a real massacre of 23,000 soldiers killed or injured on both sides in just one day, including five Generals killed (three from the North and two from the Southern Army) who waged this combat setting a personal example to their soldiers.
in the souvenir shop:
a cap of North or South?
In West Virginia, where the Shenandoah River empties into the Potomac River, there is an idyllic small town named Harpers Ferry. A few years before the Civil War, its overture took place here. In 1859, John Brown, a fair-skinned abolitionist organized a few young black men in an armed riot against slavery. These conspirators were defeated by the State Marines commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee. To the call to surrender, John Brown answered, "No, I prefer to die here." He was, however, later arrested and condemned to death for conspiracy against the state of Virginia and subsequently hanged. A monument to John Brown was erected in his native Kansas, while here, at the Harpers Ferry Armory taken by rioters, there is a commemorative plaque. As I am standing here, in front of this strong building called "John Brown's Fort," I am trying to remember those heroes from the history of the Balkans who attained glory by fighting and sacrificing for the freedom of others and their ideals. National heroes fight for themselves and their tribe and apparently win all the time, but are remembered only by a short history that fits between the cover of a book.
Thanks to John Brown today's America has a dark-skinned President. General Robert E. Lee is a brilliant soldier and a great man who obliged his Virginia. However, his prisoner, John Brown, who was hanged with Lincoln's blessing, is greater and more significant than Lee, as he, with his ideas and deeds – coming from his heart and motivated by humanism - outdid Virginia and the United States, as well as General Lee and President Lincoln – which is why he was hanged.
by John Brown's Fort
a heavy-armed fruit
of a horse-chestnut
*The title recalls the well-known Yugoslav communist saying "Comrade Tito, we swear to you" (what they swear is "to fight for Yugoslavia" but this promise vanished 10 years after Tito died). The title is given by the editor of E-novine (E-novione is our Hufflington Post). My original title was: John Brown we need you very much"